Kelsey 5x8 Registration

I am somewhat new to letterpress and things have been going great for now. I have read everything I can get my hands on and have read a ton on these forums.

The one thing that has eluded me so far is registration on my 5x8. I am using a boxcar base and have had great results. My problem lies in when I try to line everything. It seems like there are so many variables of where the base is locked in the chase, how the plate is placed, and the pins. So far I have been putting the plate on via the method on the boxcar videos but that hasn’t been working all the time. I constantly end up with crooked text and I go through tons of paper making little movements in the pins to try and correct it and get it straight. Last night after a lot of frustration I concluded there has to be some better way or some small tips and tricks that have eluded me for now.

Is there anything I am missing?

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I don’t know if it’s the proper way, but I learned to print first on the tympan, then do really careful measuring on all sides for even paper placement before placing pins, and then making final little adjustments as part of the makeready.


Always save old copy paper, use this for setting up,save the good paper till after you get position. Emily is right, print on tympan, then you set your pins. Even if the die is not straight on the base it should not matter because you are setting your pins to the image on the tympan. Good Luck Dick G.

I do everything a little different, since my platen is stationary on my Golding Map Press. I use photo corners on my tympan and mylar or tracing paper to set my registration.
Works for me! Enjoy.

Kort Adjustable Gauge Pins available from NA Graphics make platen presswork a lot easier. The give you about 6mm of adjustment once you’ve got them in the tympan so you just have to ballpark their position when setting up.

Here’s how I set up register on a platen press:

-Put in the standard tympan sheet and packing.

-Open the top tympan bail (or bale if you prefer) and insert a scrap sheet large enough and similar to the paper you’ll use for your production run on Top of the tympanand close the bail. Flatten this scrap sheet by creasing it near the bail.

-Print on the scrap sheet.

-Without removing the sheet from the tympan bail, measure and mark with a pencil or pen where you want the margins. Ideally do this for two spots on the side and two on the bottom.

-Take a straightedge (like your metal pica pole or a length of 6 point slug, line it up on the margin marks and tear off the excess paper outside the marks.

-Cut your slits for your (if like me your are using McGill double grip gauge pins) and line the gauge pins right at the edges you just created.

If you do this carefully your gauge pins will line up very close to the final position and very close to square.

-Then remove the scrap sheet and put another scrap sheet the same size as your working sheet in the gauge pins and take a second impression.

-Measure the margins and adjust in very small amounts, if necessary. After doing this now for a few years, I seldom have to make any adjustments more than a few points. About half the time I don’t need to make any.

During your print run save all of your mistakes. They’ll come in handy in lining up the second and subsequent colors.

Registering the second color can go one of a couple of ways. If the second form is the same size, I’ll use the same furniture layout and arrange the type/cuts in such a way that they should fall into the right spots. Sometimes that means I don’t have to change the gauge pins at all. Though you want to carefully check the placement of the gauge pins and their tongues to make certain you’re not going to smash anything. Before you take an impression. You’ll cry if you destroy the last Cap ‘C’ of an irreplaceable font. Trust me on this.

If that’s not practical, then I repeat what I did for the first. The added step is, after the second test impression (usually one one of those mistakes from the first run), I hold that and one of the good copies from the first run up to the light or on a light table and look to see if things are in register and then make any needed adjustments.

Eventually you’ll have to risk one of your good copies and see how you’re doing. I seldom waste any and almost never more than 1. Just to give myself a margin of safety I plan on printing 5-10% or more extra on the first run than I’ll need. When I get done I have a few extra copies that I can give away as samples of my work.

This works well for me. YMMV.

a trick i learned is to place a sheet of mylar over the tympan, print on it and then you can slide your paper under the mylar, align it and place your gauge pins.

I have never gotten the hang of cleaning up my tympan!